The Coronavirus Outbreak: A New Infection Alarm System on Your Smartphone

European researchers have developed a new technology aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Called PEPP-PT, it has been designed to conform with EU data privacy rules. Its developers spoke with DER SPIEGEL about the app.

In the debate over the deployment of digital technologies to help combat the spread of novel coronavirus, a new European approach has been developed in the hopes of diffusing fears of far-reaching surveillance via so-called “tracking apps.” In recent weeks, a team of around 130 people from 17 institutes, organizations and companies in Europe has developed a technology that is intended as an alternative to the tracking technologies used in some countries in Asia. These technologies are sometimes applied against the will of users and some of them can enable other users to identify those who have become infected with the virus.

But the project PEPP-PT, which stands for Pan-European Privacy Protecting Proximity Tracing), seeks to avoid those pitfalls. The plan calls for users to voluntarily download an app which will inform them if they have recently been in the proximity of someone who subsequently tested positive for coronavirus and who also uses the app. That is the extent of the information that will be supplied: You were near someone who was later confirmed to be a carrier of the virus.

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